Does Mayor Durkan have a "Black Problem" on the horizon over The Central?
The fight to keep the Central Area Senior Center (The Central) and Byrd Barr Place in the community heats up.
Although the Mayor Jenny Durkan has been quiet in regards to the pending transfer of the Central Area Senior Center, earlier this year, at the 6th Annual State of Africatown, Mayor Durkan took the opportunity to reassure community members and especially the tremendous number of Black elders and community stake holders in attendance that she like them is fond of the Central Area Senior Center.
During her address to the capacity crowd at Langston Hughes, Mayor Durkan said:
"People know that the Central Area Senior Center is one of my favorite places, there is no time that I have been there that I have not smiled and felt warm, and I think that it's not just enough that it stay with community" - Mayor Jenny Durkan
In the complete speech, the Mayor went on to speak about the possibility of erecting senior housing on the site. However, recent feasibility studies indicate that this is not possible given the location and topography of the property not to mention that it would be near impossible to get neighborhood consensus for such a project.
Many in the community are frustrated that despite the Mayor's promising words regarding the Central Area Senior Center, that with the March 2019 deadline passing for the transfer to occur, and no clear direction from City Hall as to how her office plans to proceed or adjusted timelines, that the comments made at the State of Africatown may have been disingenuous.
The temperature in the community has reached a near boiling point in the past weeks starting back in late April when Seattle City Council Member, Kshama Sawant, organized a #DefendTheCentral press conference and rally at City Hall on April 23rd in which many elders who use the Central Area Senior Center as well as concerned community members made their position known as well as to request the immediate transfer of the Central Area Senior Center and Byrd Barr to the community.
Africatown Community Land Trust's, K. Wyking Garrett, spoke at the press conference and outlined Africatown's support of the transfer as well as the pending transfer of Fire Station 6 located on 23rd and Yesler to Africatown.
Community leaders and elders such as Rev. Harriett Walden and Nana Kibibi have also vocalized their concern about the loss of Black institutions in our community especially the Central Area Senior Center and Byrd Barr Place.
The Mayor, who once was very vocal in her support of the Central Area Senior Center has now gone quiet on this issue refusing to communicate directly with long time respected community leaders on this subject
The lack of clear progress and the overall silence out of City Hall is leading to a rising level of anxiety, angst, and anger of those in the community who are baffled as to why a once transparent process has now gone opaque.
With the rapid disappearance of legacy African American institutions in the Central District due to systemic gentrification and displacement for several decades, there is a distant yet encroaching drumbeat of war that can be heard throughout the Central District that is echoing community sentiment that enough is enough and that there very well could be battle lines drawn soon over the fate of The Central and Byrd Barr Place.
It appears that at this point, time and patience are both in short supply on this issue.
We will keep you updated.